Dietary saccharides and sweet tastants have differential effects on colonization of Drosophila oocytes by Wolbachia endosymbionts

Biol Open. 2017 Jul 15;6(7):1074-1083. doi: 10.1242/bio.023895.


Wolbachia bacteria are widespread, maternally transmitted endosymbionts of insects. Maintenance of sufficient Wolbachia titer in maternal germline cells is required for transmission efficacy. The mechanisms that regulate Wolbachia titer are not well understood; however, dietary sucrose was reported to elevate oocyte Wolbachia titer in Drosophila melanogaster whereas dietary yeast decreased oocyte titer. To further investigate how oocyte Wolbachia titer is controlled, this study analyzed the response of wMel Wolbachia to diets enriched in an array of natural sugars and other sweet tastants. Confocal imaging of D. melanogaster oocytes showed that food enriched in dietary galactose, lactose, maltose and trehalose elevated Wolbachia titer. However, oocyte Wolbachia titers were unaffected by exposure to the sweet tastants lactulose, erythritol, xylitol, aspartame and saccharin as compared to the control. Oocyte size was generally non-responsive to the nutrient-altered diets. Ovary size, however, was consistently smaller in response to all sugar- and sweetener-enriched diets. Furthermore, most dietary sugars administered in tandem with dietary yeast conferred complete rescue of oocyte titer suppression by yeast. All diets dually enriched in yeast and sugar also rescued yeast-associated ovary volume changes. This indicates oocyte colonization by Wolbachia to be a nutritionally sensitive process regulated by multiple mechanistic inputs.

Keywords: Drosophila; Oocyte; Symbiosis; Titer; Transmission; Wolbachia.